Unstoppable Review


I don’t think Tony Scott gets enough credit as a director. His films, I guess, are somewhat disposable, but he knows how to make an old-school action flick. I didn’t care for his 2009 entry, The Taking of Pelham 123, but Man on Fire, Déjà Vu, and his latest, Unstoppable are fun, exciting movies. I found myself really caught up in this story of a runaway train and the two men who set out to stop it. It’s not trying to reinvent the wheel, but it’s a very enjoyable ride from start to finish.

Frank Barnes (Denzel Washington) is a veteran railroad engineer who’s been forced out of his position. During his final three weeks, he’s tasked with training Will Colson (Chris Pine), a young gun with a bit of an attitude. The two clash, especially when Will makes a major, potentially life-threatening mistake. But they’re forced to come together when an unattended locomotive starts speeding in their direction. It’s nearly half a mile long, and several cars are carrying hazardous materials. With the help of their director, Connie (Rosario Dawson), they avoid the train, but Frank isn’t content with their strategy of derailing it in a small town. So he puts his train in reverse and tries to catch up with the runaway train.

Unstoppable is the kind of film that does exactly what you hope it will. As a result, it’s hard to be disappointed by it. There’s actually not a ton of action. It’s more of a thriller peppered with brief scenes of action mayhem. But it has a furious pace. The set-up is very brief, and the film doesn’t overstay its welcome.

As far as acting goes, these aren’t the most incredible performances of the year, but Denzel Washington and Chris Pine do what’s asked of them. Denzel has done this sort of role a thousand times. No one does the everyman better than him, and while it certainly is nice to see him step out (like he did in Training Day), there’s something comfortable about seeing him in films like these. Chris Pine, on the other hand, isn’t as charismatic as he was in his breakout role in Star Trek. But he doesn’t get totally overshadowed by his co-star, and that’s not an easy task.

I thought it was interesting how Scott crafts this into a somewhat down-to-earth disaster film, a la Independence Day or The Day After Tomorrow. The train is an out-of-control, unstoppable (hey, that’s the name of the movie!) force. It’s a villain, just without personality and dialogue. The film has another minor villain, a profit-driven executive. This whole subplot rang false for me. It’s probably the film’s weakest material.

In the end, will Unstoppable be one of the year’s most memorable pictures? No way. But in the moment, it’s engaging. I had a blast watching it, even if it’s the kind of film I’ve seen many, many times before.

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